Money is a funny thing. We prostitute ourselves for about forty hours per week to get it, trade irreplaceable time for more than enough, and worry about it on a fairly regular basis. Yet, in the grand scheme of things it is pretty damn worthless.
I remember the first time these thoughts began to dominate my thinking with absolute clarity. The heat waves dancing on the pavement presented the illusion of water but there wasn’t a drop to be found under a blistering desert sun. The dead calm air seemed hot enough to pop corn.
My lips were glued together, my throat was two steps beyond parched and my mouth was so dry I could have spit dust. The only shade to be found for miles was under my old sweat stained hat.
The silence was deafening as Route 66 had been bypassed the year before and the highway was empty. The only sound was the beating of my heart and the clop, flop of my broke down boots with one heel held in place by bailing wire as I placed one foot in front of the other on the griddle that was that two lane stretch of asphalt.
By mile one I gave in to the temptation and began sucking on the canteen and by around mile five it went dry. Thoughts of a cold beer gave way to thoughts of anything cold, which gave way to thoughts of anything wet by the seventh or eighth mile.
The old GMC had called it quits just a mile or so from the highway but that was still a dozen miles from Kingman and almost thirty miles from the ranch. Hackberry was a bit closer but not by much and that had made the decision a bit easier.
Along this stretch of road there had been dramatic changes since the new four lane between Seligman and Kingman opened. In the first couple of hours only a car or two zipped past and there was no hope that those lost tourists were going to stop for a fellow that looked as wild as I did. This was my monthly trip to town for a haircut and a bit of cutting loose.
My hair was beyond shaggy, and the stubble on my face accentuated the deep bronze color of my face. The old blue shirt was faded almost white but not quite enough to mask the sweat stains. My jeans were bleached from the sun and a few hundred washes but they still bore the marks of oil stains, blood stains, and my best imitation of a seamstress.
So, with my head throbbing from the heat I let my mind drift as the autopilot kicked in and one foot followed the other without thought. At first it was a bit difficult to think of much of anything but how damned hot it was.
Then, as they often did when I was alone in the desert, my thoughts turned to the twisted path that led from the deep forested mountains of Tennessee to this forlorn place in the wilderness. At some point in my fevered reflections I felt a smile creep across my face in spite of the cracked lips.
Here I was in the middle of absolute nowhere. My truck was down, my boots were shot, I was way beyond thirsty, but in my pockets were the old watch, a gift from a cowhand with no family that was mere minutes from standing with his maker, my pocket knife, and a wallet full of jack, a months pay and then some.
It wasn’t really a laugh, I was far to dry for that. It was more of a crackle that would have convinced most anyone I had spent way to much time alone and in the sun if there had been anyone around.
A pocket full of jack and it had even less value than my well worn boots, or ancient misshapen Stetson. Talk about your revelations!
The lesson learned that day was that money is important in the right place. However, in the end how much or how little you have really won’t matter so don’t spend to much time chasing it.

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